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Put a Ring On It! Wedding Ring Traditions Throughout the Centuries

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The beauty of a pair of wedding rings is in the promise and commitment that they represent. At so many weddings, there is a ritual of the couple placing the rings on each other’s hand. It is a solemn moment as the ceremony celebrating their commitment nears its end.

The tradition of wedding rings has a long and interesting history. Here are just a few of the rituals and lore associated with the wedding ring.

A Circle Of Love

One ancient ritual has the groom moving the ring from the top of the thumb, to the forefinger, then the middle finger, before finally leaving it on the fourth finger. As each finger was touched by the ring, a section of a prayer was said by the husband, ending with Amen as the ring is placed on the left ring finger.

The ring is often associated with a circle of love that never ends. Ancient Greek physicians believed that a vein in the third finger of the left hand ran right to the heart, giving it a symbolic connection to the idea of love and marriage. If a ring is broken, it was considered a sign that foreshadowed the end of the marriage. Lost wedding rings were meant to be replaced quickly, often accompanied by a renewal of the vows.

Wedding rings from broken marriages were considered bad luck and were not used in another ceremony. To this day, it is also considered unlucky to remove a wedding ring once it has been placed on the finger in a church.

Left or Right Hand? The Meaning Behind Ring Placement

Various cultures attach a different meaning to the placement of a ring. In Ireland, Claddagh rings symbolized a promise of love, loyalty, and friendship. When the Claddagh ring was placed on the right ring finger with the heart facing outward, it means that the young lady is single. When the ring is placed on the right ring finger with the heart placed inward, it means that the young lady is attached. Once the ring moves to the left hand, it signals that the relationship is getting more serious. With the heart facing outward on the left ring finger, the young woman is engaged. Finally, a married young woman has the Claddagh ring on the left ring finger with the heart pointed inward.

Other cultures point to the fact that the right hand is the hand of power and the left hand is a representation of subjection or dependence. Therefore, a woman wearing a ring on her left hand is said to signify the subjection of a wife to his husband.

Wedding Ring Décor and Engraving

Rings in different cultures may be adorned with specific jewels or symbols native to their countries. Traditionally, wedding rings were forged from gold, although bands have also been forged from other precious metals. In the 16th and 17th centuries, gimmel rings were common. These rings would consist of two interlocking bands which were worn by the couple separately until their wedding day. The rings were then reunited and worn together by the bride thereafter.

Various designs with religious significance were often shaped by jewelers as the wedding and commitment of the couple were being blessed by God and the church. In the Middle East, rings could come in several pieces that would join together to make one piece when worn properly.

Engraving your ring could mean adding the date of your wedding, initials or a piece of poetry that has special meaning to the couple. Men and women may exchange rings, although that is more of a Western custom.

Engagement rings may be plain or have a decoration of multiple jewels, but wedding rings are typically plainer and often complement the engagement ring. After the wedding, a bride will often wear both her wedding and engagement ring although the wedding ring will be worn on the finger first and then the engagement ring.

Wedding Ring Traditions Today

Selecting a wedding ring involves weighing your personal preferences, your culture, and traditions as well as your budget. For instance, you might prefer platinum or another precious metal, but your family may have traditionally chosen gold for their wedding bands. Jewelers can now help you to customize your rings, making them unique to the couple.

It is important to have a conversation about what you both like and do not like before choosing your rings and determining how much you want to spend. After all, these rings are going to be with you for years to come! Check out our wedding rings page for more information on wedding ring traditions.

Wedding Details is your comprehensive guide to all aspects of your wedding. From traditional ceremonies to questions regarding the guests, our website offers you one place to do all your research.

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